From: Jennifer Odell
Wow, it’s pretty cool when writers agree on something, whether it’s that this was the year of the pianist or that naming a beer after a Miles Davis record is the jazz version of Katy Perry selling music to tweens by wearing nothing but candy. But since we seem to have a consensus on Ten and Dirty Baby, I’d like to swing the conversation in a somewhat different direction.
I actually do see a narrative thread in the story of jazz in 2010. In the Mtume-Crouch video, Mtume says that fusion was Miles’ way of battling “technical exhaustion.” In some ways, 2010 was a year when the jazz industry acknowledged its own technical exhaustion and tried new things: from Orrin Evans’ jam sessions in Philly to broader booking habits by George Wein, to New Orleans music finding a platform for promotion on TV. In each case, the common denominator was a locavore aesthetic.
2010 began with Wein boasting online about how he was hanging out late at night in Williamsburg, trying to get a handle on Brooklyn’s music scene so that his reincarnated CareFusion festivals would be more accessible to a younger demographic.
Sure, Wein was “discovering” acts like Brooklyn’s Mostly Other People Do the Killing, which topped critics’ best new artists lists back in 2008. And yes, MOPDTK got an early New York CareFusion slot that coincided with the NBA playoffs, while Herbie and Wayne headlined at Carnegie. But I’d argue that Wein’s overall interest in representing local music, offering it for lower ticket prices and collaborating with Brice Rosenbloom, the Jazz Gallery and Revive Da Live still signaled a change from the norm.
On the label side, this year’s buzz was focused more around Clean Feed than Blue Note and Verve. You even got the sense that Brad Mehldau’s output smacked too much of the establishment for some critics. The author of a post exemplifying the Mehldau backlash Chris referenced felt that Bill McHenry and Trombone Shorty, both of whose followings used to be pretty localized to New York and New Orleans, respectively, delivered better albums than Highway Rider this year. Just like what’s happening in restaurants (has anyone visited Portland, OR lately?) we’re seeing a shift to the more nationalized celebration of what’s happening on local levels.
Shaun, I’m willing to bet this can be traced in part to the explosion of Facebook and Twitter, which has made geography less of an issue than ever before. (For the record, I haven’t logged into my Twitter account in a year or two, but probably will re-up the account now because this conversation’s made me curious.) If there was an ethical quandary two years ago about having artists you might review as Facebook friends, that issue was diluted in 2010 by sheer numbers. George Porter and I are online buddies but the “likes” I send his way gets lost in the massive fold of his ever-rising number of “friends.” (I’m skipping over a response to the Bad Plus dialogue because Ethan Iverson and Reid Anderson are, unlike Porter, real-life friends.)
Another artist whose local following grew a little more national this year was Mary Halvorson, whose graceful nods to pop and rock earned Saturn Sings top billing on Shaun’s Top 10. I’d also put some of the year’s most head-turning sax players in that category: John Ellis, JD Allen, Andrew D’Angelo and Tony Malaby.
There was also Chris Lightcap’s addictively gorgeous Clean Feed release, Deluxe, which year-end critical praise hopefully brought another wave of attention to the New York scene staples in its lineup. Finally, it can’t be a coincidence that all of these artists gave top-notch performances at the new Undead Jazzfest, produced by boomBOOM Presents and Search and Restore.
Robert Wright for The New York Times
Which brings us to December, when the big underdog story was Adam Schatz’s successful push to raise $75,000 for Search and Restore to expand the jazz audience and, specifically, to get younger listeners involved. The fact that Schatz on one end of the spectrum and Wein on the other, share the goal of bringing jazz to a younger, more localized crowd tells me this is a mobilized effort.
2010 was also a huge year for the New Orleans music scene. John Ellis’ Puppet Mischief was a creepy, groove-infused yet cerebral experiment in sonic joy, which I’d rank high in my picks of the year. By the spring, a former child prodigy from the Crescent City named Troy Andrews debuted his Backatown release at the top of Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz charts, where it stayed for nine weeks (it’s been in the Top 10 for 27).
Troy probably had some help in the sales department from his recurring role as himself on HBO’s Treme, which also debuted in 2010 and turned out to be like “American Bandstand” for the New Orleans music scene.
National audiences never sang the lyrics to John Boutte’s songs the way they did this year when Big Easy bands regularly broke into renditions of the HBO show’s theme song at shows across the country. Donald Harrison, Davis Rogan, Kermit Ruffins and his drummer Derek Freedman (also a bandleader in his own right), Terence Blanchard and John Cleary also made appearances on the show. Depending on when season two wrapped shooting, I’d be willing to bet there will be scenes involving jazz funerals for a great jazz photographer and a legendary member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
As for where a modern day Miles cameo might turn up, let’s not rule out the silver or small screens -- the guy was in Scrooged, after all. I like to think that in a year when even the industry bigwigs were trying to get down with the underground, Miles would have rejected a major label offer from Kanye so he could sit in with Trombone Shorty’s band on Treme. And with that weird visual... I hand the baton to David.